Tuesday February 18, 2020

Oklahoma State Judge Fines Johnson & Johnson $572 Million in Damages to State for Fueling its Opioid Crisis

Addiction and overdoses of the synthetic painkillers have killed more than 10,000 Oklahoma residents since 2000, lawyers argued

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Oklahoma, Johnson & Johnson, Opioid
FILE - The Johnson & Johnson logo is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, May 29, 2019. VOA

An Oklahoma state judge has ordered U.S. drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million in damages to the state for fueling its opioid crisis.

Addiction and overdoses of the synthetic painkillers have killed more than 10,000 Oklahoma residents since 2000, lawyers argued, asking for a record $17 billion in damages.

“The opioid crisis has ravaged the state of Oklahoma. It must be abated immediately,” Judge Thad Balkman said before announcing his verdict.

Johnson & Johnson is the first company to be put on trial for what the state said was a “cynical, deceitful multibillion-dollar brainwashing campaign.” The state said J&J marketed opioids as a “magic drug” to doctors, caregivers and other prescribers.

Oklahoma, Johnson & Johnson, Opioid
An Oklahoma state judge has ordered U.S. drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million in damages to the state for fueling its opioid crisis. Pixabay

Attorneys cited Oklahoma’s “public nuisance” law, which is intended to protect the public from people and companies looking to harm others.

J&J’s lawyers argued the company’s claims about its painkillers are backed by science. They pointed out that J&J’s products make up a tiny fraction of opioids prescribed in Oklahoma and less than 1% of all those used across the country.

Appeal planned

J&J said it will appeal the ruling. The company said Oklahoma’s state attorneys used a “radical” interpretation of the public nuisance law.

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Johnson & Johnson was one of three pharmaceutical houses sued by Oklahoma, but the only one to come to trial.

The state made multimillion-dollar settlements with Perdue Pharma and Israeli-owned Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries earlier this year.

The Trump administration has declared opioid addiction a national health crisis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, opioids have killed nearly 400,000 people over the last 20 years. (VOA)

Next Story

Drug Companies Reach $215 Million Settlement to Avoid Trial over their Role in Deadly Opioid Addiction Crisis

The case has been viewed as a harbinger for similar lawsuits filed by more than 2,700 local and state governments across the country in hopes

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Drug, Companies, Opioid
Summit county executive Ilene Shapiro speaks to the media outside the U.S. Federal courthouse, Oct. 21, 2019, in Cleveland. VOA

A major pharmaceutical company and three of the biggest drug distributors in the U.S. have reached a $260 million settlement with two counties in Ohio to avoid a trial over their role in the deadly opioid addiction crisis gripping America.

The deal, struck Monday, came just hours before the opening arguments in a court in Cleveland, Ohio. The case has been viewed as a harbinger for similar lawsuits filed by more than  2,700 local and state governments across the country in hopes of recouping damages from the crisis.

Drug distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen will pay $215 million in reparations. Israeli drug manufacturer Teva will pay $20 million in cash and also contribute $25 million worth of Suboxone, used to treat opioid addiction.

“People can’t lose sight of the fact that the counties got a very good deal for themselves, but we also set an important national benchmark for the others,” said Hunter Shkolnik, a lawyer for Cuyahoga County.

Drug, Companies, Opioid
The deal, struck Monday, came just hours before the opening arguments in a court in Cleveland, Ohio. Pixabay

Cuyahoga and Summit counties had brought the lawsuit that accused the four companies of fueling a nationwide opioid crisis.

According to U.S. government data, opioids have led to some 400,000 overdose deaths between 1997 and 2017.

Lawyers say the settlement will provide local governments with the finances needed to establish opioid-recovery programs.

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Attempts to reach a nationwide settlement broke down last week after cities and counties suing the drug companies rejected an offer of $48 billion in cash, treatment drugs and services. (VOA)